The Cascadia Venture Forum (CVF) kicks off its 2nd Annual Health Innovation Investor Forum at the VANTEC Life Sciences Angel Network (LSAN) Meeting in Vancouver on June 6th
Business is about relationships. About building trust. Which is why in today’s fast-moving world of near-instant digital communications, in-person, face-to-face interactions are becoming rare – and yet they are more important than ever.
“No problem,” says George Aliphtiras, an entrepreneur and angel investor, and the mastermind behind the Cascadia Venture Forum (CVF). “To build great companies you need great people… and great capital. I saw an opportunity to facilitate a series of networking events that would allow our world-class start-ups to build meaningful relationships with our most successful and experienced investors within the Pacific Northwest and beyond.”
Thealzel Lee, entrepreneur, angel investor, founder of E-Fund (an angel investment fund), and proud organizer and supporter of last year’s CVF also felt that life sciences needed its own platform – its own showcase. When she heard what Mr. Aliphtiras was proposing, she jumped on board:
“I said ‘Let’s do something focussed on life sciences and let’s leverage our geographic proximity: the Cascadia Innovation Corridor has some of the best innovators and investors and collaborating within the region facilitates valuable and necessary person-to-person meetings. As an investor, you can be on the front lines with the emergent companies. Let’s capitalize on all that life sciences has going for it, and build an even stronger community’.”
And so CVF was born: a forum designed to bring carefully curated health innovation start-ups together with potential investors. As Elayne Wandler, Director of Partnerships and Programs for Accel-Rx, explains:
“As Canada’s national health sciences accelerator, we are all too aware of the limited capital in Canada necessary to commercialize our discoveries. Building clusters in regions like Cascadia are important initiatives that help bring investors, companies, and support organizations together in one room to get to know each other, build trust, exchange knowledge, and ultimately do business together.”
In its inaugural year during fall of 2016, Cascadia had a strong reception and boasted several success stories between innovator and investor; however, it was the unexpected successes that came from the event that intrigued Mr. Aliphtiras:
“One of the success stories that came out of last year’s forum was the networking that occurred amongst the investors themselves. You know what you know in your own backyard but you don’t know what’s in the other person’s backyard. Or how to leverage upon different skill sets across the region. CVF helped facilitate a type of network effect. This momentum builds a collaborative synergy amongst the players themselves.”
While last year’s achievements have set a high bar, CVF continues to build upon that foundation for what it believes to be an even more impactful 2nd Annual Forum. As Ms. Lee puts it:
“Investors will get to see the hottest companies in the Cascadia region. So maybe you are an investor from Boise, Idaho and you don’t get exposure to let’s say, Portland, Oregon. Now at the forum you’ll get to see companies not only from Portland, but also Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. The forum optimizes time and distance in an efficient manner that allows for connections to happen in a person-to-person way.”
Those behind CVF know that relationships formed between investors and entrepreneurs are unique. Thus, increasing the likelihood of a successful first introduction that may blossom into a longer-term relationship and potential investment is a key objective of the forum.
To help achieve this, participating start-ups are put through rigorous pre-screening, ensuring investors are seeing high-quality companies who are also provided with constructive feedback throughout the process. This makes the forum efficient for the investor and valuable for the start-up.
“To make the cut and de-risk the opportunity for investors, start-ups must demonstrate to CVF that they are investable: they need a compelling business model and product that makes sense with strong customer traction. Last but not least, the team must also demonstrate that they have a solid foundation,” says Mr. Aliphtiras in support of helping start-ups put their best foot forward.
For investors and health innovation start-ups, the Cascadia Venture Forum offers a clear value proposition. But its also a compelling opportunity for sponsors of the event.
“As a sponsor, you gain exposure to the whole Cascadia region,” says Ms. Lee. “So maybe your business is only in Portland. At the forum in Vancouver, your exposure suddenly becomes international – but still regional and relevant. Sponsorship also provides the venue to highlight your leading role in building our life sciences community.”
Ms. Wandler concurs: “Accel-Rx is thrilled to support CVF and its vision to enable the Cascadia Innovation Corridor to become a world-leading cluster of health innovation entrepreneurship. And we are proud to be one of its foundational sponsors helping to build that vision.”
“Building” is the key take away from CVF. “What continues to drive us to do this,” says Mr. Aliphtiras, “is seeing the real impact within the community and the next generation of companies that are built and that succeed due to this initiative. The cluster’s continued success and the high-quality deal flow that we have here in the Pacific Northwest is something we are very proud of.”
If you would like to participate in the Cascadia Venture Forum as a start-up to pitch and connect with investors in BC, Oregon and Washington, as a sponsor to join and support the community, or as an investor or other health innovation ecosystem member to see inspiring and investable entrepreneurs with an opportunity to network with like-minded investors, entrepreneurs, and other community members across Cascadia, please visit the website to learn more: www.cascadiaventureform.com.